One Window, Three Scenes

Scene 1: Jonty gets lucky

A hand smacks the ground floor window, sticks to the pane, and slithers away. I amble over to the corner of my bedroom, prop open the window, and peer out. “Lemme in, G,” my fellow seminary student, Jonty
Green, croaks while tangling inside a mulberry bush. I leave my flat and walk across the courtyard of God’s Light Yeshiva. I lift up my wayward brother and bring the sorry sack back inside.

“I don’t care if the rabbis kick me out. She was worth it,” Jonty whispers to his mug of piping hot Nescafe.“How’d you meet this one?” I ask. “While you were cramming down Halacha 101 at the yeshiva, I got initiated into the mysteries of the East in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria.” “You hooked up with a Chinese tourist?” “Not that far east… Scarsdale, New York.”

Scene 2: Jonty gets drafted

It’s one thing to have a roll in the hay with a recent Barnard College graduate during her Birthright Israel program. But you’re stepping on God’s toes when you recruit the son of your yeshiva’s dean to help smuggle iPhones into Israel in return for cannabis. Because of Jonty, the only heir to a rabbinic dynasty that dates back to the sealing of the
Talmud in 500 CE was brought up on smuggling charges last week. The public disgrace is total.

I figured that Jonty would be immediately extradited back to South Africa. Then one day a man with no time to spare appears at the yeshiva. The conversation between he and Jonty takes place right outside my window, so I gather up the meaty scraps: “Your… talents… advanced level of physics, math… computer science… Talpiot needs you. You’re an Israeli citizen… don’t enlist… and we’ll feed you whole to the South Africans.” And so Jonty Green, one-time arsonist, two-time forger, and three-time Comrades Marathon participant, is slated to become a member of the IDF’s most elite unit.

Scene 3: Jonty gets married

I left the yeshiva and flew back to Los Angeles shortly after Jonty completed his four-month boot camp. I am now back in Israel on a visit, crashing on my friend Billy Haber’s couch, in the same room I had once lived in at God’s Light. We are playing backgammon when an explosion of Klezmer and Beatles rocks the walls. I run to the window. “That’s your buddy, Jonty. Just got married at the Kotel. They’re having the Seven Blessings at Rabbi Demsky’s,” Billy says.

I jump out of the ground floor window and join the fast moving wedding party. Jonty is dressed like a flamenco dancer. His bride is a striking Yemeni girl, covered from head to toe in golden veils and red scarves. The revelers include the yeshiva dean and his son, the one who got caught selling reefer to the Lebanese. If I know Jonty, that sweet young thing he had a fling with is a maid of honor.

Jonty doesn’t have a gift for gab. But in this cold universe he has a way of making you feel that there’s no warmer place to be in than in his orbit.

 

This piece was originally published in the Jerusalem Report magazine, April 2020.

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